Sunday 28 November 2010

Overcharged: How can we trust bus companies now?

Last Monday, the Land Transport Authority revealed that bus commuters have been overcharged a total of $300,000 since the new distance-based fare system was implemented in July.

I pitied those poor public transport-dependent souls.

Out of curiosity, I went to and typed in the number of the sole bus service plying my area just to see what would happen.

I got the message: “This bus service is affected. If you had travelled along the affected bus stops between 3 July and 25 November 2010, you may be affected by the distance discrepancies.”

Alamak! My kids take that bus to and from school practically every day (even during the school holidays because they have volleyball practice).

Out of the hundreds of bus services in Singapore, the service that my family rely on the most unfortunately has to be one of 27 SMRT bus services that have been erroneously syphoning a few extra cents from our ez-link cards with every trip.

It was like winning an “unlucky draw”, except instead of winning money, the prize is finding out that you’ve lost money.

Sure, commuters can get their refunds “at their convenience” at bus interchanges and MRT stations. But wouldn’t it be more convenient for commuters not to have to get refunds at all?

And money isn’t even the real issue here since each individual refund amounts to only a few dollars at most.

It’s the betrayal of public trust.

Remember all those complaints about the new fare system three months ago and how the powers that be reassured us it was an “equitable” system that saved us money?

Remember all those times over the years when the Public Transport Council kept insisting that the fare hikes were justified?

How are we to believe any of that now?

I’m not suggesting that they’re lying to us. I’m saying they can’t seem to get their numbers right.

Such incompetence has resulted only in financial loss, but what if the bus companies are just as inept in the maintenance of vehicles and training of drivers?

Am I naive to entrust the safety and lives of my children to them?

Speaking of financial loss, the bus companies are also foregoing the $100,000 they lost from undercharging on some services and won’t be reclaiming that money from commuters.

Are we supposed to say “thank you”? “Spank you” maybe.

All I know is that when I get the refunds, I’m going to check the amounts in my kids’ ez-link cards - and then check them again.

You know, just in case they deduct our money instead. “Erroneously”, of course.

- Published in The New Paper, 28 November 2010

Hi mr. Ong

great article that you wrote on tnp today.


Dear TNP,

Just wanted to draw your attention to the TNP article by SM Ong, “Overcharged" on 28 Nov.

While we understand that this is a light-hearted piece, we do not agree with Mr Ong on two points - betrayal of public trust and if distance fares is an equitable system.

In fact, the recent announcement on the bus stop distances refunds affirmed the intergritty of our system, rather than betrayal of trust as Mr Ong claimed.

He has chosen to ignore the fact that LTA/operators have been upfront and we came forward to correct these errors.

We also failed to understand how this episode would detract from the argument that Distance Fares is an equitable system, since the basis and rationale of the policy remains unchanged. More importantly, any errors is rectified quickly.

We are concerned with this as there is suggestion of betrayal of public trust in the article, when we have been forthright in correcting the errors.

We do take this seriously and we felt it is really not a fair comment to us.

Helen LIM (Ms)
Deputy Director, Media Relations, Corporate Communications
Land Transport Authority